SEATTLE — Brian "Red" Hamilton was in the middle of moving equipment on the Vancouver Canucks' bench in between periods on Oct. 23 in Seattle when he noticed a woman behind the bench pressing her phone against the plexiglass.
That woman, an aspiring med school student named Nadia Popovici, urged Hamilton to get a mole on the back of his neck checked out because she thought it was cancerous.
It turned out she was right.
"I felt bad in the moment, because I'm walking off the bench and she put her phone up to the glass and her phone said, 'The mole on the back of your neck is cancer,'" Hamilton told NHL.com. "It threw me off. I kind of just shrugged and kept going. My inital response when I found out was, I felt bad because I felt like I didn't really give her the time of day."
Prior to the Canucks' return to Seattle to take on the Kraken, Hamilton asked the Canucks to publish an open letter to the fan who may have saved his life.
"I want you all to know that this isn't about me," Hamilton wrote. "It's about an incredible person taking the time to notice something concerning and then finding a way to point it out during the chaos of a hockey game."
Thanks to a Kraken fan group, the team was able to track down Popovici and the two finally met in person. During their meeting, Hamilton thanked Popovici for her help.
#HockeyTwitter, we need your help!— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 1, 2022
Please RT to spread the word and help us connect Red with the woman he considers his hero. pic.twitter.com/HlZybgOnjf
"She extended my life," Hamilton said in a press conference. "I've got a wonderful family. I've got a wonderful daughter. She saved my life. She didn't take me out of a burning car, but she took me out of a slow fire.The words out of the doctor's mouth were that if I ignored [the mole] for four to five years, I wouldn't be here."
In addition to thanking Popovici in person, the Canucks and Kraken also presented her with $10,000 scholarship to help her pay for her medical school expenses.
The internet community helped us find Brian's hero, Nadia, and tonight they met in person where he got to express his sincerest thank you to her for saving his life.— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 2, 2022
A story of human compassion at its finest. pic.twitter.com/66ogo5hB1a
Hamilton is an assistant equipment manager for the Canucks and has worked for the team since 2002.